Photo: Bomb at Track/ Facebook
Sweaty bodies were crashing against one another, middle fingers were high in the air and “fuck the government” can be heard shrieked from across a sea of concertgoers.
It was at this moment at rock band Bomb at Track’s first big concert in August last year, when I realized that young Thais aren’t just expressing their political angst through their tweets, one can also see it in the music they listen to.
Political music took center stage in 2018, when Rap Against the Dictatorship (RAD) dropped their now-iconic single, “Prathet Ku Mee” (“What My Fucking Country’s Got”). Despite blunty anti-government lyrics like “the country that claims to have freedom, but no right to choose,” the musical collective evaded legal reprimanding — thanks to the unprecedented amount of public support.
Much of that came from the country’s younger citizens, many of whom voted for the first time in last year’s general elections. Born between 1994 and 2001, these citizens have already witnessed two military coups in their lifetime.
RAD aren’t the only one singing about political and social dissatisfaction, however, if you dug “Prathet Ku Mee”, here are some other songs and bands we recommend you checking out.
“If They can’t Hear, We must Yell” by Bomb At Track
Check out any one of their gigs, even on the sidewalk of a busy Siam Square soi on a Sunday night, you may find yourself wondering if you’re in an underground 90s rock show.
Moshing, crowd surfing, screaming — Toto, are we still in Bangkok?
Most of BAT’s songs are about some kind of societal inequality or discontentment. We recommend “If They can’t Hear, We must Yell.” This song features one of RAD’s founding members, Liberate P.
Here’s some of their lyrics translated:
Your mouth says you will serve the country, but all you do is ridiculous, wasteful.
In the end, it’s the citizens that’s fucked. All we can do is die with no money.
Everyday, you don’t care how we live or die. If you can, stay. If you can’t, just leave.
I have to be paranoid of your threats, be scared for my safety.
Can only wish that you assholes will all die away.
“Democracy” by Binlabang Ft. Demonixion
This hip-hop single samples different clips from the media, thought leaders and citizens expressing their weariness for Prayuth’s administration and rallying audiences to join the fight for democracy.
The artist questions if the country is truly developing, as political leaders often like to say, with so many people in poverty and getting sick (yes, their music video references Covid-19.)
Here are some of the lyrics:
Democracy, I carry on my shoulders. I ask for justice, a return to transparency. Power in your hands. the reason you act tough. When truth is spoken, your legs shake in fear.
“Democrazy” by DOGWHINE
Softer than the bands mentioned above, but still with lots to say, is this noise rock/experimental pop band of five members. Their songs are a mix-and-match of different styles of music including jazz, psychedelia and lo-fi. They “whine” about whatever stresses them, whether it is unemployment, a flawed democracy or a leader that didn’t come from an election.
Here are some of the lyrics from Democrazy:
Democrazy disturbed by tear gas
Democrazy disturbed by rifles…
Nowhere to hide, no way to run
Not your first time to see dictators
And it’s in English, so no translation’s necessary.
“Thailand” by PAE
Apart from videos on Youtube starting five months ago, there’s not much else online about PAE. But this rapper has got a lot to say. Right off from his first video “Poor,” PAE raps out the class divide and political injustice.
In his other song, “Thailand”, PAE raps about government corruption by singling out specific government officials like Deputy Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow, who was once convicted in Australia of conspiring to import heroin into the country.
Here is the verse:
Thamanat, they said, was a good man.
He loved his country like everyone does.
I’m going to say your name in my song.
Because you became a minister after trafficking drugs.
So confusing, what a pity for this country we built.
We should feed the fish with your salaries.
You do a shitty job. You should quit, go say goodbye.
“Dek Dee” by P9d
“Fuck the section 44, motherfucker”, begins rapper P9d in his song “Article 44” about the interim constitution, which gave the militiary junta that ruled Thailand from 2014 to early 2019 absolute power.
P9d loves touching on controversial things. Another song, “Dek Dee” (“Good boy”), samples a traditional lullaby that teaches the children responsibility in 10 points. The song delivers similar points — with a new message, however.
Here’s part of the first verse:
Number two, to keep the tradition, government officials continue corruption.
Such an expensive watch. He borrowed it from a friend, a new excuse every hour.
Number three, trust your parents and teachers, but not the government. Whether Prayuth or Thaksin.
“My Junta” by OK KhlongSansaeb
With the name of this song, and the music video starting with the description of the junta, there’s no doubt what this song is about.
It starts as a haunting Thai song about a truth hidden deep inside some of us, then transitions into English to tell us exactly what that truth is.
Here’s some of it:
Junta is coma, like that you and me so similar.
You exaggerated to hold me again,
that it’s kind of flu, coming to my brain.
‘Cause the consensus not strong enough,
it’s a lot of things destroyed of us.
Granted the English is not perfect, but they get their point across.